Did you know that we have a National Tree Champion?

I received an email yesterday asking ”are you available to speak to BBC Radio Essex tomorrow morning?” … ‘it’s about trees, and it’ll be live’. I was in. Any opportunity to help profile the benefits of tree planting in the county. (for the record if you want to listen to this it’ll be available for a short time by clicking here (from 1:48:02)

The discussion was being profiled as a result of a recent article in The Times which referenced that Clacton-on-Sea, which is on the Tendring peninsula in Essex where I live, is being targeted by the National Tree Champion, Sir William Worsley, as a place that could benefit from tree planting.

For me, planting trees is about planting in appropriate places. If land is more suitable for productive farmland then that should be its use. If land is more suited to development that can help community, then that should be considered. However, planting trees in some way can be hugely beneficial in a range of landscapes. It doesn’t have to simply be about woodland, although I do hope we can make room for more mixed leaf woodland in future.

What are some of the benefits of planting trees?

(all in a general sense but all apply in most cases)

  • Improved air quality
  • Effective flood prevention measure
  • Soil stabilisation
  • Mental health benefits
  • Amenity and Landscape Character value
  • Easy way to get people of all ages to connect with their local environment
  • Chance to learn traditional skills such as coppicing
  • Trees help to combat climate change
  • Tree can help keep us cool
  • A Habitat for wildlife

These are just a few.

The public engagement potential of tree planting is huge and it is a simple act that can make a big difference both on the outside and in our minds. For a child that one experience can sow a seed for them to have a conservationist mindset for the future.

Who is Sir William Worsley?

Sir William Worsley is our current national tree champion, appointed by Defra Secretary Michael Gove back in June last year and tasked with boosting planting rates and halting the unnecessary felling of trees. The plan is generally for the government to provide funding for the planting of about 11 million trees, including 1 million in towns and cities (from cherry and oak in Manchester to plane in London). Sir William is already Chair of the National Forest Company so is uniquely seated to carry out the role. Worsley’s home is Hovingham Hall, a Palladian-style mansion house in North Yorkshire built by Thomas Worsley between 1750 and 1770. The estate at Hovingham has a significant amount of forestry and has also won awards for woodland conservation, so again Worsley seems well placed.

At a time when there is such political and economic uncertainty news such as the tree planting plans should be very welcome and they offer a glimour of what is possible when we imagine how positive change can take place within the landscape, to benefit people and wildlife.

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